FIA race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed in Germany, that qualifying will be red flagged if there is an incident where double waved yellow flags are deployed. This decision is in response to the controversy surrounding Nico Rosberg’s pole position lap in Hungary last time out.
This would mean that the track would become “neutralised”, therefore no driver on the circuit would benefit from the waving flags whether they are ahead or behind the incident. Of course this brings downsides as well as the drivers would have to return to the pits to change tyres, that’s if they have any fresh sets left.
Depending on when the incident occurs, would the drivers have the time on the clock to get around and start another flying lap? Whiting said he would red flag the session if there was a repeat of the Fernando Alonso spin that triggered the flag-gate debate at the Hungaroring.
“That’s what I intend to do in the future, just to remove any discussion about whether a driver slowed down or not,” said Whiting.
“I think most drivers decided to call it a day and stop their attempt at qualifying, but in Nico’s defence, he had only one yellow sector to go through, and that was a short one, whereas the other drivers had two yellow sectors to go through. So there is a difference.
“I just don’t want to get into these discussions where you need to try and decide whether a driver has slowed down enough. If you apply the double waved yellow flag rule absolutely to the letter it says you must be prepared to stop.
“I think that’s a difficult one to call really. It’s a little unfair to those who were in front of Fernando and were trying to complete the lap, but that’s what happens when a red flag goes out any time.
“Pascal Wehrlein was caught out by the third red flag in Q1. He was about to set a time and a red flag came out less than a second before [the line], and his time didn’t count. That’s what happens, unfortunately.”
Whiting went on to speculate whether a driver would create a red flag to further their own interests. (Monaco 2006 & 2014 anyone)
“If we had any suspicion that a driver had done it on purpose, that would be quite a serious offence. Fernando spun, as you know, he was across the kerb, half on the track, half on the kerb. It was without any doubt a double waved yellow flag scenario. I think it was all done correctly.
“At the time you don’t know if he’s going to get going again. You listen on the radio, but they’re not saying anything. So you don’t know what’s going to happen, so you have to wait a little bit.
“And then all of a sudden, he’s going. If we knew that the engine had stopped, it would have been a red flag immediately, but you have to wait a few seconds to find out what’s going to happen next.
“When there’s a dangerous situation on the track, you need to attend to it. There could be marshals there, for example. That would have been a double waved yellow flag in that second sector.
“I think if we just say in those circumstances in the future we are going to stop the session, to make sure that the driver and the car can be recovered in complete safety, then that’s what we’ll do.”
There is a popular opinion in the pit lane that this directive is the correct thing to do. It has become too hard to control or set a standard regarding how much a driver should ‘lift’ under yellow conditions. Too many variables play into the ‘lift and coast’ rule, as we saw last week on a drying Hungary track. The obvious solution is to reset the session.
All these rule tweaks are still damaging for the sport. Over 60 years of racing, and the rules are getting frequently changed at every race meet recently. Is it a good thing that the FIA are listening to drivers, teams, and fans to improve the show? Or does it reek of incompetence and politics from the governing body?
As Charlie also pointed out, purposely creating a red flag opens up another future controversy. A quick lift of the throttle vs. locking a brake and stopping on circuit? Be careful what you wish for F1.